The History of Pilates

Pilates is an exercise method named after its founder and originator, Joseph Pilates, who was born in Germany in 1880. Pilates was a frail child who suffered with asthma and rickets. But his determination to thrive despite his illnesses led to him developing his physique to such an extent that he was used as a model for anatomical drawings.

He later became a gymnast, diver, skier, professional boxer and circus performer. In 1912 he moved to England where he worked as a fighter, perfomer and self defence instructor until he was interned along with all other German nationals during the First World War.

During his internment he worked in a hospital where he developed his physical fitness regime to include the use of equipment to rehabilitate patients who had lost the use of their limbs.

Much of the equipment he designed at that time is still in use today.

In the early 1920s Pilates emigrated to the USA , where he opened a 'body-conditioning studio' with his wife Clara. There he began to teach his exercise method, which he called ‘Contrology’ which became immensely popular, particularly within the dance community, attracting many celebrities of the day.

His method took a further step forward with the publication in 1932 of Pilates first booklet, which he called 'Your Health.' This was followed by the classic 'Return to Life Through Contrology' in 1945. Some of Pilates original students went on to become instructors themselves, and so through the books and his students, Pilates’ exercise method was passed on until his death in 1967. After his death, the method stopped being referred to as Contrology, and instead became known as Pilates, or the Pilates method.